AIU Blog

The AIU blog shares ideas, information and tips aimed at helping you get ahead personally and professionally, with topics ranging from online learning success to career development.

How to Go Back to School: A Guide for Adult Students

Image: how to go back to school

If you're looking to take your life or career in a new direction but are unsure of how to go back to school, you're not alone. Many adult learners who want to pursue their degrees have been away from school for five, 10, 15 years or longer. If that's the case for you, it's easy to become concerned that you're too "rusty" to succeed in a school environment or have other fears related to completing your degree. Maybe you're unsure what steps to take to go back to school, what you need to know to get started, and whether it's the right decision for you. Here is a closer look at determining how to go about making your dreams of going back to school a reality.

How Do I Go Back to School?

Returning to school starts with simply embracing the opportunity to learn more. Have you completed high school or obtained your GED? If so, you have the qualifications in place to attend college. If you're looking to get started in a new field, your next step is to learning more about the different degree programs that are available and how they align with your interests and goals. Do some research on career paths you're interested in and what education is typically required.

If you already know what degree you'd like to pursue, research which universities have a program that best fits your needs. You can also reach out and speak to an admissions advisor to discuss your goals, plans, and options. Once you enroll, you'll also be able to determine whether you may be able to get credit for work you've already done, including not only previous college courses completed but also military service or work experience. Starting with previous credit can help you achieve your goal of graduating more quickly, while saving money on tuition and fees.

When Do I Go Back to School?

Knowing how to go back to school in your 30s or 40s is one question, but knowing when the right time to go back can be entirely different. Many adult learners are balancing a wide range of responsibilities: full-time or part-time employment, childcare and other family responsibilities, community obligations, hobbies and the need for personal time. Yet going back to school can have important personal and professional benefits.

Today's flexible learning models are making it easier to get started on your goal of going back to school sooner than you might think possible. Flexible schedules allow students to go full-time or take one class at a time, depending on their availability. Online learning makes it easy to fit learning around your schedule, allowing you to study, listen to lectures and submit assignments from anywhere with a computer and Internet connection. Some online universities also offer personalized learning platforms that let you skip over what you already know so you can focus your time on what you need to learn. The quickly evolving educational environment means that students have more options available than ever before.

Should I Go Back to School?

There are many reasons why adult learners decide to return to school: some are personal, others are professional. On the professional side, a bachelor's or master's degree may open up new job opportunities or lead to a pay increase. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, people who have a bachelor's degree earn 65% more per week than those with a high school diploma alone, while those with a master's degree earn 20% more per week than those with a bachelor's degree.1

Degrees can also help facilitate a career change or advancement within your given field. Many learners also return to school for personal reasons, including the ability to expand their knowledge base and gaining the satisfaction of completing their degree. There are numerous potential advantages to deciding to further explore the question, "How do I go back to school?" Get started today by taking the first step.

Ready to learn more? Explore online degree programs at AIU.

1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Employment Projections: Earnings and Unemployment Projections by Educational Attainment, on the Internet at (visited 5/12/2015)